Developing New Approaches to Victim Assistance in Armenia
Trafficking in human beings (THB) is a multi-dimensional issue. It is a crime that deprives people of their basic rights and freedom, increases global health risks, fuels growing networks of organized crime, and is an obstacle to development. The impacts of human trafficking on the individual, family and society are devastating. Victims may suffer physical and emotional abuse, rape, and threats against themselves and their families. Human trafficking undermines the health, safety, and security of nations and has long-term implications for all of society. The proliferation of trafficking in Armenia has been driven by a combination of factors: man made and natural disasters such as war and earthquake; transitional processes that shook social and economic conditions creating an increase in unemployment and poverty; porous borders; and weak legislative protection and legal processes.
Through initiatives by the Republic of Armenia and international actors an effective counter trafficking policy has been developed, legislative changes have been introduced, and many activities have been implemented.The Government of Armenia (GoA) has ratified relevant international counter trafficking instruments, including the UN Palermo Convention and Protocol, and the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on Actions Against Trafficking in Human Beings. The GoA has introduced important changes in its own legislation, such as strengthening concepts of THB as they relate to criminal legislation and creating better defined criminal sanctions.
In efforts to comply with minimum international standards, the GoA cooperated in a joint UMCOR/United Nations Development Program (UNDP) program that started in 2004. Under this program, UMCOR developed many important components to prevent trafficking: specialized information materials, seminars, awareness campaigns, radio and TV information programs, a hotline, a victims’ shelter and drop-in center. Effective cooperation has been established with relevant state partners, including border guards, police, the Prosecutor General’s Office, social, health and labor authorities on national and local levels, as well as NGOs and international agencies. Victims of trafficking (VoTs), both men and women, have received various packages of assistance including shelter, legal consulting and representation in court; individual and group psychological therapies; medical assistance including hospitalization; and reintegration activities such as vocational skills training, job placement and financial assistance.
A safe, confidential shelter of UMCOR is providing medical, psychological, employment and legal counseling, as well as reintegration services, for victims rescued from trafficking. It can house eight to ten survivors. Victims stay in the shelter depending on the psychological and physical recovery they need.
In 2010, UMCOR was approached by the GoA to develop a joint model for a national shelter for VoTs with financial support from the GoA. This collaboration and the state financial support covers expenses connected with the shelter premise rent and continued in 2012 as well.
UMCOR also provides project beneficiaries vocational skills trainings and covers their living expenses until they would be able to earn money themselves. Reintegration services also include employment counseling, which refers victims to exsting resources such as governmental programs or projects of local and international NGOs for employment or vocational training. UMCOR staff conducts trainings on health related issues (Prevention of HIV/AIDS and STIs; reproductive health, etc.).
UMCOR maintained the toll-free hotline to prevent human trafficking and to assist VoTs by providing a variety of information to clients including advice about laws and rights of migrants in the destination country, how to access assistance in the destination country, and refer clients to available assistance for health, employment, shelter, medical and legal aid issues.
UMCOR anti-trafficking hotline
Developing New Approaches to Victim Assistance in Armenia
Project implementation period: December 01, 2008 – March 31, 2010
Donor: The Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)
The project goal was prevention of trafficking in human beings in Armenia, developing country specific approaches of assistance and reintegration tailored to each specific case.
In recent years an increasing number of labor trafficking cases and other forms of trafficking such as forced begging have been registered. To address this growing tendency, UMCOR developed additional components of its awareness-raising campaign as a means to prevent trafficking. UMCOR also developed and disseminated targeted information about the risks of trafficking with a particular focus on vulnerable groups. Public service announcements, local media outlets, advertisements and printed materials were made to inform potential victims and those who already have been trafficked about the risks and consequences of trafficking; how to protect oneself and make informed decisions about migration; safe migration and employment opportunities abroad, including information on relevant laws and policies in countries of destination and the rights of migrants; rights of victims of THB and existing assistance, protection and social inclusion mechanisms in Armenia.
An important aspect of reintegration of victims of THB is empowering them to break the cycle of trafficking by identifying other viable options for their lives. Reintegration assistance is not only a human right but it is also an opportunity to embrace a strategy to prevent re-trafficking of victims. Based on the experience gained through its anti-trafficking projects, UMCOR designed a comprehensive reintegration program that considers the psychological and physical state of victims, their family situation, education, skills and aspirations. As part of the reintegration process under the project, UMCOR also worked with victims’ home communities to create a climate of sympathy and understanding.